SIOUX CITY | It took Jason Garnand a couple of months before he could watch the tape.

The Sioux City Stampede reached the championship game of the Midwest Football Alliance for the second time in the past three seasons last summer only to be denied again.

“It was rough, hard offseason after the championship game,” he said. “Being 9-0, No. 1 team in the country in semi-pro, and playing a team we beat earlier in the season and losing that game, that was tough for two or three months.

“It probably took me a good two months to watch (the game film). It was one of those things where I felt sorry for myself and sorry for the players and put all the blame on my shoulders. Then one day it just dawned on me, it just clicked that it was time to watch that game and get better, get ready for next year.”

Next year is quickly approaching as the Stampede will play a preseason game in Aurelia, Iowa against the North Iowa Bulldogs on April 29 before kicking off the regular season May 13.

Last year’s 28-20 loss to Kansas City in the title game did not signal a need to have a major roster shakeup as Sioux City returns a large majority of its team.

The offense will be led by quarterback Scott Manley, a former South Sioux City standout, who threw for 1,753 yard, 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season. He will be joined by the league’s best rushing attack with T.J. James (844 yard, 12 TDs) and Larry Taylor (738, 6).

“We are loaded up again this year with some new additions to the roster,” Garnand said. “It is really taking the shape of being a special year for us. We never really expected to get to where we are this fast.”

Manley will have three of his top five receivers back in the fold with Ben Oberle, Zac Kliment and Bret Van Muyden.

Reigning league MVP and defensive player of the year Derek Geddings returns after accounting for 47 tackles and eight sacks. Geddings is still recovering from a torn ACL he suffered in last year’s semifinals but is expected to round into shape as the season progresses.

The Stampede enters their fourth year as an organization with the mentality that each season is an opportunity to reload and not rebuild. Having the target on their back is something Garnand believes will be key in dealing with to finally finish a season with a victory in the biggest game.

“It is just being confident in being on top,” he said. “The first few years you play in this league at this level you try to feel yourself out and where you need to be. Last year, by the end of the year, we expected to win every game, expected to be favored in every game. That is the mentality we want again this year and not take anything for granted.”

Garnand said now that Sioux City has established itself as a strong franchise it has become easier to attract players to the team.

Sioux City begins its conference season against a new team in Chillicothe (Kan.) in South Sioux City on May 13. Other key games include another showdown with Kansas City on June 24, a tough game with Des Moines on July 1 and another new team in the Midwest Chargers based out of St. Louis. The Chargers are three-time champs out of their former league and the Midwest Titans out of Kansas City also are former league champions.